Uncanny UK editor RICHARD HOLLAND delves into the dark recesses of his memory to present a true tale of an unusual but rather charming little ghost.
About 25 years ago I was on a coach travelling down to Somerset when the subject turned to that of ghosts (as it so often does). One of my fellow passengers announced he had a ghost in his house, and a rather unusual one. Unfortunately, because it was so long ago and I was unable to take notes, I cannot tell you the location of this man’s haunted flat nor even his name, though I believe it was Nigel, so that is what I will call him.
‘Nigel’ told us he had recently moved into a rented cottage which had formerly belonged to an elderly lady who had since passed on. One peculiarity of his new residence became apparent the day after he moved in: in the morning several of the neighbourhood’s cats appeared at his back door and sat there in an expectant manner. Taking the hint, Nigel fetched a couple of saucers, placed them on the step and poured a little milk into them. His new friends lapped it up with enthusiasm. It seemed apparent that the lady who had previously lived in the house had made this a ritual and the cats fully expected Nigel to continue the tradition. He was happy to oblige.
Later in the week, however, Nigel happened to place the saucers just inside the back door rather than on the step. The cats, despite their obvious desire for the milk, made no attempt to come into the house, indeed they seemed positively afraid to do so. Nigel tried to tempt them in, but they remained outside, mewing plaintively. At last, he put the saucers down in their accustomed place on the step and they tucked in. Shortly, Nigel was to discover the reason for their reluctance.
‘I’d been there about a fortnight,’ he said, ‘when I began to glimpse a cat out of the corner of my eye. A black one. At first I thought I was imagining it, then I began to think that perhaps a cat had got in, although I couldn’t work out where it was slinking off to. Anyway, I couldn’t find it.
‘At last the truth dawned on me. One evening I was sitting watching telly when in came the cat. It padded across the floor, completely at home it seemed, and I remember thinking something like, Ah there you are – I wasn’t imagining you, after all. It crept up to my outstretched feet, and I thought it was going to nuzzle up to them – but it walked straight through them! I jumped up like a jack-in-the-box and the cat vanished.’
Nigel’s house was haunted by a phantom pussycat and the mortal moggies were perhaps not only aware of it but unwilling to intrude on its domain. As Nigel got used to his ghostly guest he found that it would not only show itself more often but also seem more real.
Compared to ghost dogs, ghost cats are a scarcity, which seems strange, considering cats have also been favoured pets of mankind for years without number. Even when we disregard the uncanny Black Dogs and spectral hunting hounds of ghost-lore, apparitions of ordinary canines and pet pooches of the past are reported far more frequently than those of felines. Perhaps ghostly cats keep themselves aloof, as they tend to do in life.